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Continuing our series of blog posts around the six megatrends identified by the World Economic Forum, this month we explore 3D printing—just in time for the gift-giving season. Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing puts down successive layers of plastic or another material to build up an object in 3D. This is as opposed to traditional or reductive manufacturing, which fashions a product out of a pre-existing block of material (for example, carving a chair leg out of wood).
According to the Gartner hype cycle for 3D printing, we are quickly making our way up the Peak of Inflated Expectations for the capabilities of additive printing processes. Meaning that it’s the cool new thing—and if you want to impress your friends and family, you can pick one up for the cost of a designer handbag at multiple mainstream retailers, including Target, Office Depot and Walmart. Or check out the MOD-t 3D printer, one of the cheapest models on the market right now, for only $399.
3D printing and healthcare
While 3D printing is often used in the same sentence as “prototyping” and “proof of concept” for start-ups and the entrepreneurial set, Gartner predicts that medical products will drive actual market growth over the next five years. Three-dimensional printing has many advantages for creating custom prosthetics and implants, including better fit for the patient, faster turnaround and cost savings. Around the world, 3D printing is already having a huge impact on quality of care for patients—just check out these Dutch doctors who replaced a woman’s skull with a 3D printed model, saving her life.
Even more on the cutting edge is the concept of bioprinting, or 3D printing entire organs, using a mixture of stem cells and hydrogel to create a three-dimensional scaffold for growing living tissues. Respondents to the World Economic Forum’s Technology Tipping Point survey estimate the first transplant of a 3D printed human liver will happen by 2025—that’s in less than 10 years! (Think about the Hannibal remake … ).
What’s on their wish list?
If you really want to feel hip this year, buy a 3D printer now and make everyone’s presents yourself. Think about the money you could save! With the right instructions, you can create just about anything. But if the learning curve seems daunting, check out this list of quirky 3D printed gifts. It’s up to you if you tell your sister you didn’t personally print her pop-out earring set, but if all fails, maybe you can just print grandma’s new dental implant.
What do you want to 3D print? We want to know—tweet us @TEKsystems.
Read the whole World Economic Forum report here, and stay tuned for future editions of the IT Roundup.
As part of TEKsystems’ public relations team, Vanessa Ulrich reads everything she can about the technology industry and emerging trends. Vanessa blogs about where technology and society collide, giving context and commentary to top news stories. You can reach her with questions and comments @TEK_PR via Twitter.